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May 28, 1998

Transaction Analysis

May 22-26

by Christina Kahrl


Placed LHP Allen Watson on the 15-day DL (strained elbow); recalled 3B/1B Frank Bolick from Vancouver. [5/24]

Thanks to a few handy off-days this week, the Angels aren't really going to be hurt much in the short term by placing the combustible Watson (7.69 ERA) on the DL. Jack McDowell will continue to pitch hurt (anyone remember his bold statements this spring about his health?), and they won't have to decide whether or not to press Jason Dickson back into the rotation for several days. A spot start by Shiggy Hasegawa or Pep Harris probably isn't out of the question.


Purchased the contract of LHP Efrain Valdez from the Mets. [5/22]

Purchased the contract of LHP Efrain Valdez from Tucson; optioned RHP Bryan Corey to Tucson. [5/26]

With Omar Daal's success as a starter, the D-backs went with convention and added Valdez to be the spot lefty in the pen. You may not remember him from his brief stint with the Indians back in '90-'91, back when Mike Hargrove was juggling Goose Gozzo and my old personal fave, Dave Otto. He's 31, and hoping he has as many lives left as Kevin Hickey.


Placed RHP John Smoltz on the 15-day DL (sore elbow); activated RHP Mark Wohlers from the DL. [5/24]

Wohlers' return is conveniently coincidental with Kerry Ligtenberg's recent struggles. It would have been nice to see Alan Embree get a chance in the closer's role, and/or an expansion of the role into the 8th inning, but we all know Bobby Cox is sturdily conservative with this sort of thing, and you can't blame him for it. In Smoltz' absence, obviously Kevin Millwood won't have to worry about being skipped as the fifth starter, and El Presidente will continue his shuffling stumble towards baseball history as the game's "winningest" Latin.


Placed LHP Jimmy Key on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/20 (stiff left shoulder); recalled RHP Nerio Rodriguez from Rochester. [5/24]

Activated RHP Terry Mathews from the 15-day DL; optioned RHP Nerio Rodriguez to Rochester. [5/26]

Key is already starting his rehab assignment, so this isn't really a long-term problem. Rodriguez made the emergency start in his absence (and got pasted), and the O's expect to run out Doug Johns, Scott Kamieniecki, Doug Drabek, and Scott Erickson over the next four games. I doubt Sid Ponson is going to get more than a start out of this, although there's nothing wrong with the Orioles keeping him around in long relief this year. The question is whether its sensible to keep jerking Rodriguez around as he has been over the first two months, with the only dubious benefit being that if Pat Gillick burns through his options any faster, he'll either get to escape to another organization, or he'll finally get left alone.


Placed CF Damon Buford on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/18 (strained knee); recalled RF Trot Nixon from Pawtucket. [5/22]

Recalled SS Keith Johns from Pawtucket; optioned RF Trot Nixon to Pawtucket; transferred RHP Kerry Lacy from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [5/23]

Placed 2B Mark Lemke on the 15-day DL (still recovering from a concussion); recalled RHP Joe Hudson from Pawtucket. [5/26]

Losing Buford leaves the Sox somewhat shorthanded in the outfield, since it means that Darren Lewis, Darren Bragg, and Troy O'Leary will have to play every day. Its interesting that Duquette decided to not call up Billy Ashley at this point, but the Sox would have had to shuffle their 40-man roster. Hudson's callup should be temporary, since he's the obvious fall guy for Nomar Garciaparra if/when the shortstop comes back by this weekend, and he's a good candidate to have his contact optioned to Pawtucket without fear of losing him.

Mark Lemke can't help a baseball team win ballgames. His continuing presence in a major league uniform ought to be the subject of the next "Batman" movie: Dr. Freeze, desperate to prolong the career of his favorite ballplayer until he can find a cure for a bad bat, puts the Polish Lemming on ice, only to find that Lemke's already so cold that he doesn't have to.


Fired pitching coach Mike Pazik and hitting coach Ron Jackson; named Nardi Contreras pitching coach and Von Joshua hitting coach; activated RHP Matt Karchner from the DL; designated LHP Larry Casian for assignment. [5/23]

Purchased the contract of LHP Jim Parque from Calgary; designated DH Ruben Sierra for assignment. [5/25]

Parque entered the rotation last night, and should be up to stay, since he'd have to work more than may be humanly possible to pitch worse than Jason Bere or Jaime Navarro. After a rough start at Calgary, he'd regrouped to go 2-3 with a 3.94 ERA, although his control was a problem (25 BB in 48 IP). Of course, one or two bad outings in a row may be enough to have Jerry Manuel resort to his preferred motivational tactic of publicly questioning a player's manhood. Meanwhile, the release of Sierra has led to agonized cries from Frank Thomas that the team doesn't know what its doing. He's half right: any team that wastes ink, paper, and money on signing Ruben Sierra to do anything other than sing the national anthem doesn't know what its doing, and any manager who thinks that playing Sierra regularly was going to help the offense, as Manuel claimed during last week's experiment with His Burnished Bald Badness in right... well, you know the punchline. It appears that in straightening all of this nonsense out, Ron Schueler had to sacrifice his man in the clubhouse (Pazik) to get Von Joshua in and Ruben Sierra out, in exchange for allowing Manuel to bring in his old associate (Contreras) from their mutual service with the Expos organization. The faces may change, but the haphazard management style remains.


Optioned 1B Sean Casey to Indianapolis; recalled LHP Eddie Priest from Indianapolis. [5/23]

Placed RHP Mark Hutton on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/22 (groin strain); recalled CF Pat Watkins from Indianapolis. [5/24]

Casey had played his way out of the first base job, and I can't really fault them for deciding to go with their already-deep major league outfield of Reggie Sanders, Jon Nunnally, Chris Stynes, Mel Nieves, and Watkins (who pounded the ball during his ten-game stint in Indy), while returning Dmitri Young to first. Meanwhile, Eddie Priest replaces David Weathers in the rotation. As canny as the Reds have been in most cases, the fascination with Weathers was unfortunate. If not for his one great start against a weak Mets team, he'd have been dropped much sooner. Priest has been moving up fast: after starting out in AA, he went up to Indy, where he was 3-0 with a 4.09 ERA in 4 games (2 starts). He'll be the fifth starter behind Brett Tomko, Mike Remlinger, Pete Harnisch, and Scott Winchester, which is stronger than anything involving Weathers.


Activated RHP Dwight Gooden from the 15-day DL; placed RHP Chad Ogea on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/20 (strained pectoral muscle). [5/22]

Gooden was busily building up the bragging rights of International League hitters when Ogea's injury bug cropped up (again). The Tribe had wanted to leave Doc in Buffalo for another couple of starts, so that he could at least demonstrate the ability to get somebody out, but he'll take his shellackings in the majors for the time being. It was a bad signing at the time, and now that he has to pitch, the Indians will be hurting for more than the wasted money. Don't be surprised when Gooden fails to make the postseason roster.


Traded C Mike Piazza to the Mets for LHP Ed Yarnall, LHP Geoff Goetz, and OF Preston Wilson. [5/22]

Purchased the contract of C Mike Redmond from Charlotte; designated RHP Blaine Mull for assignment. [5/22]

Purchased the contract of RHP Joe Fontenot from Portland (AA); optioned RHP Donn Pall to Charlotte. [5/23]

Talk about anticlimactic finishes to fabulous possibilities... trading Piazza for one outstanding pitching prospect, one A-ball pitcher, and one legacy? Yarnall is the best pitching prospect in the minors today; he's decisively outpitched Fontenot at AA, for instance: 8-0, a 0.49 ERA, 43 baserunners in 55 IP, with 57 K (Fontenot had a 3.08 ERA, by comparison, the bum.) Goetz was the Mets' top pick in the '97 draft, he throws hard (and possibly harder once he matures physically), but he's a year removed from high school, and there's no such thing as an A-ball pitching prospect. Wilson is a hack-happy boondoggle, and now in an organization awash in better outfielder prospects. There are a couple of ways to take this trade from the Marlins' perspective: maybe something is wrong with Piazza (or his agent has undermined his value by advertising his interest in Arizona for '99 and beyond), maybe major league GMs are more gun-shy than ever about making deals for players who aren't under contract beyond the current season, and maybe Don Smiley had a gun to Dave Dombrowski's head. To be honest, I don't know. One hopes, for Yarnall's sake, that the next wearer of a World Series ring to head out of town is Leyland, lest he get to make a clean sweep in his drive to incapacitate pitching prospects. Ryan Dempster, it appears, will remain in the bullpen, with the rotation consisting (as long as it can survive) of Jesus Sanchez, Livan Hernandez, Fontenot, Brian Meadows, and Andy Larkin. I could see Meadows as the only survivor by next April, if only because he's relatively economical in his pitch counts. Gregg Zaun will get his big chance right now (Redmond is a non-factor), with John Roskos potentially getting a crack if Zaun screws up.


Optioned RHP Mike Grzanich to New Orleans. [5/24]

Activated LHP Mike Magnante from the DL. [5/25]

Grzanich got into one game, so he didn't really get an opportunity to push Bob Scanlan. He can hope to build on his good work in New Orleans, and get another crack by August.


Activated 1B Hal Morris and RHP Hipolito Pichardo from the DL; optioned LHP Jamie Walker to Omaha; placed OF Ernie Young on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/22 (sore back). [5/23]

Pichardo will eventually be returned to the rotation, which means that Chris Haney and Jose Rosado are essentially duelling for a rotation spot for the next start or two. Since Pichardo isn't a great bet to stay healthy as a starter, and isn't a major asset regardless of the organization's noisy protestations of his potential greatness, the point may wind up being moot with Kevin Appier beginning his rehab work. Morris' return coincides with Jermaine Dye's employment as a regular, which means that Larry Sutton and Shane Mack will get less playing time. That isn't going to make the Royals better for the short or long term, but the only things that matter at this point are how well Johnny Damon plays, how quickly and fully Appier recovers, and when Jeremy Giambi gets called up.


Recalled LF/1B Paul Konerko from Albuquerque; optioned RHP Brad Clontz to Albuquerque. [5/22]

Wasn't it only a few weeks ago that Clontz was racking up his hitless innings streak? Calling Konerko up to sit on the bench while Bill Russell diddles around with neato whizz-bang ideas like batting Todd Hollandsworth leadoff has to be some new form of decisive indecisiveness that comes into play when Big Brother Rupert is looking over your shoulder. "Splunge!"


Placed RHP Bob Tewksbury on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/24 (shoulder soreness). [5/26]

The seriousness of Tewks' injury remains to be seen, but it appears that the Twins have the right idea if they follow through on the rumor that they'll promote Dan Serafini to take his place. Sure, Ricky Bones has a 3.42 ERA at Salt Lake, but you know and I know and apparently Terry Ryan knows that means as much to the Twins' future and improvement as a bullpen donkey gimmick. Actually, with Mike Veeck potentially entering the management picture, Ricky Bones is arguably less important than a bullpen donkey gimmick. Serafini put up a 3.71 ERA in the PCL, and has been waiting for his shot for about two years now, so here's hoping he makes the best of it; how he does could do a lot to fan the flames of those trade rumors surrounding Mike Morgan and Tewksbury. Meanwhile, Frankie Rodriguez' problems are only getting worse, as his ERA in the Buzz rotation is now 8.10.


Optioned LHP Rick DeHart to Ottawa; designated Major League Son Derrick May for assignment. [5/22]

Recalled RHP Carl Pavano and 3B Jose Vidro from Ottawa. [5/23]

At long last, Pavano enters the Expos' rotation. Give credit where credit is due: even with things going as badly as they have, they haven't rushed him through his rehab. With his arrival, I suspect Carlos Perez' availability in trade will be closely related to Dustin Hermanson's recovery. With F.P. Santangelo badly beaten up, Vidro returns to butcher the deuce and make outs; given that the alternative in Santangelo's absence is Mike Mordecai, how many Expos fans are willing to admit they miss Doug Flynn these days? At least the removal of May signals a temporary commitment to go with the LF platoon of Ryan McGuire and Robert Perez, which is a big improvement over anything involving Derrick May and playing time.


Acquired C Mike Piazza from Florida for LHP Ed Yarnall, OF Preston Wilson, and LHP Geoff Goetz. [5/22]

Designated C Rick Wilkins for assignment. [5/23]

What does this mean for Todd Hundley? Or John Olerud, should Hundley's elbow heal up so that he and Piazza split the catching duties and first base? Given Bobby Valentine's past willingness to go with awful defensive combinations (Inky in CF, or Kevin Reimer ever wearing a glove, come immediately to mind), I won't be surprised if Hundley or Olerud have to shag flies in the outfield, barring that rumored trade for Roberto Alomar and Raffy Palmeiro (which in turn could send Palmeiro back to the outfield?). Hats off to the Mets for getting Piazza relatively cheaply, and for creating this set of "problems" in the first place; as good as Yarnall could be, they still have a recuperating Pulsipher, Octavio Dotel, and Arnold Gooch above A-ball, so they're not lacking pitching depth in the system.


Placed CF Jason McDonald on the 15-day DL (concussion); recalled CF Ryan Christenson from Edmonton. [5/24]

Is it fate? McDonald's done everything the organization has ever asked, moving from short to second to the outfield to second to center during his minor league career, he's been a useful offensive player, and even when he finally gets his shot, something like this weekend's gruesome collision with Rickey Henderson stops him in his tracks. I like Christenson's long-term future, and I like having him on the field now, but its unfortunate that it has come under these circumstances.


Placed LHP Yorkis Perez on the 15-day DL; recalled LHP Robert Dodd from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [5/25]

Perez was perhaps finally earning a shot to stick, but Dodd may claim the lefty setup role for keeps: he has good control, and he's a better prospect than Perez was or Darrin Winston is. That doesn't make him a great prospect, but the Phillies' farm needs all the success stories it can get.


Placed SS Lou Collier on the 15-day DL (strained hip flexor); recalled INF Chance Sanford from Nashville. [5/23]

Placed RHP Marc Wilkins on the 15-day DL (rotator cuff); recalled RHP Elmer Dessens from Nashville. [5/24]

Placed LHP Jeff Tabaka on the 15-day DL (fractured jaw). [5/25]

Purchased the contract of 3B Aramis Ramirez from Nashville; transferred LHP Jeff Wallace from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [5/26]

Its been a wild few days for the Pirates. Wilkins' tender right arm apparently wasn't tender enough, since he was able to smash his roommate Tabaka's jaw in a hotel lobby fracas (albeit with his left hand). Collier's luck goes bad at the worst moment for him, just as he was finally winning his fight with Kevin Polcovich for the shortstop job. Sanford and Polcovich will platoon in his absence, while Doug Strange hits the bench now that Cam Bonifay decided to go for broke and call up Ramirez. He's up a couple of months too soon: although he's showing good command at AAA (288/.392/.396), he isn't yet turning on pitches and driving the ball consistently. Like Jose Guillen last season, the Bucs are just going to take their lumps and let Ramirez learn while plugging in part of their potentially great lineup of the future right now (next up: Chad Hermansen?). If Ramirez sticks for the next 4+ months, he may reach arbitration a year earlier than if Bonifay had waited until August; hats off to Cam for apparently not caring.


Optioned RHP Rich Croushore to Memphis; recalled RHP Sean Lowe from Memphis. [5/25]

Croushore got pasted in his brief trial; since he's an organizational soldier instead of a "prospect" like Curtis King or John Frascatore, there was no commitment to keep him around. More important is whether or not Lowe will be the latest entrant into the rotation. Behind Todd Stottlemyre and Kent Mercker, Tony LaRussa has scored a success with spotting Mark Petkovsek. Manny Aybar is still struggling, and Mike Busby hurt himself in his second start. With Alan Benes and Matt Morris not due back soon, and Donovan Osborne unlikely to be healthy at any remaining point in this milennium, Lowe is probably the best option the Cardinals have, sporting a 2.95 ERA at Memphis (despite 74 baserunners in 55 IP), a good record for durability, and a good heater.


Activated 3B Ken Caminiti and LHP Mark Langston from the DL; placed UT Archi Cianfrocco on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/20 (strained oblique muscle); designated LHP Ben VanRyn for assignment. [5/23]

Langston's return means that Pete Smith is being dropped from the rotation for the time being (Hitchcock has claimed a slot in Langston's absence). That will last for as long as Langston remains healthy, ie, probably not very long. Caminiti's return frees up Eddie Giovanola and Andy Sheets for duty at short. Chris Gomez is still struggling, and the Pads are carrying a pair of good pinch-hitters in Eddie Williams and Mark Sweeney, so Bochy has plenty of weapons on offense. Moving VanRyn is unfortunate when Donne Wall and Carlos Reyes are being kept around, but he's struggled since coming over from the Cubs, and it didn't cost anything to bring him in in the first place.


Recalled RHP Russ Ortiz from Fresno; optioned OF Alex Diaz to Fresno. [5/25]

This is basically an emergency move, coming on the heels of the Giants' 17-inning game on Sunday. Ortiz has pitched exceptionally well in Fresno (0.99 ERA, with only 34 baserunners in 27.1 IP, and 24 K), so he could earn his keep and force the Giants to move someone else. Losing Diaz is no loss; only Dusty, God bless him, would give Alex Diaz almost 60 major league PA nowadays.


Purchased the contract of RHP Steve Gajkowski from Tacoma; optioned RHP Felipe Lira to Tacoma; assigned RHP Rafael Carmona to Orlando (AA) on a rehab assignment. [5/22]

Gajkowski has been immediately named a co-closer of sorts (with Mike Timlin) as a result of Mt. Piniella's latest eruption. Don't bet on it lasting beyond consecutive bad outings by Gajkowski. Although Gajkowski was pitching well in Tacoma (9 saves, 1.01 ERA, 22 baserunners in 26.2 IP, 27 K), he's a soft-toss control artist, sort of a minor league version of Paul Quantrill. Given Piniella's usage patterns, that means he'll probably get brought in to clean up other people's problems, and since he's hittable, that means runs for the opposition. Shame on everyone who's getting excited by Piniella's sudden preference for Gajkowski: he'll probably struggle as every Mariners reliever struggles. As a group, they're only part of the problem, and as long as the Mariners are subject to Lou's whims, they'll be hard-pressed to stop.


Purchased the contract of LHP Matt Ruebel from Durham; optioned RHP Eddie Gaillard to Durham; transferred RHP Rick Gorecki from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [5/25]

Placed C John Flaherty on the 15-day DL (dislocated thumb); purchased the contract of C Tim Laker from Durham; activated OF Jerome Walton from the DL and released him. [5/26]

Gosh, now let me get this straight: at one point this winter, it was touted as a major victory for the expansion teams that they could get catchers as "good" as Jorge Fabregas and John Flaherty. Now Flaherty's hurt after hitting .160/.244/.255, and Fabregas has lost his job to a noticeably better player in Kelly Stinnett. Talk about two wasted first-round picks... Ruebel's callup was an emergency start to paper over Wilson Alvarez' arm woes; Alvarez has been advised to rest for a week, and its still uncertain as to whether or not he'll have to be put on the DL. I wonder if his struggles (or those of Roberto Hernandez) make White Sox fans feel any better... Walton is the victim of the organization's stated preference for Mike Kelly and Randy Winn's hot debut, but in a world where people pay Alex Diaz to play, his phone will ring.


Signed LHP Ricky Pickett to a minor-league contract, and assigned him to Oklahoma. [5/25]

Potentially a handy pickup. It wasn't so long ago that Scott Bailes and Eric Gunderson were wondering about life after baseball. Have working left arm, will travel...

Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Christina's other articles. You can contact Christina by clicking here

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